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Cocklebur Camp

Posted by on May 17, 2019

Research for my book about chuck wagons took me to Abilene, Texas for the Western Heritage Celebration on a rainy, overcast Mother’s Day weekend. It was a huge event with vendors, roping and riding demonstrations, horse races, music, and lunch prepared by authentic chuck wagon crews. While there I had a chance to visit with the 2019 President of the American Chuck Wagon Association (ACWA) and Head Cook of Cocklebur Camp, Sam Howell, II. The ACWA works to preserve the history of the art of cooking on open camp fires in Dutch ovens by sponsoring cook-offs, demonstrations, catering, charity events, school visits and youth cook-offs.  The wagons used are the real deal, right down to the pots, pans and utensils that would have been utilized during the late 1800s cattle drives. Sadly, their message has been restricted these days due to regulations at schools relating to food allergies and campus security. “We used to be able to visit schools and set-up for cooking demonstrations, which helped us spread the story about the wagons and their history,” said Sam. ACWA members are dedicated to keeping the history alive. Russell Kimble, a cook with the Cocklebur Camp, told me he enjoys the camaraderie and close knit community the ACWA brings to his weekends. “We all share and...

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Cast Iron Cookware

Posted by on Jan 4, 2019

Worth a Mention in Your Will Cast iron cookware has been so treasured for many generations, some women left specific instructions in their will for the care of their cookware. Without a doubt, the best wedding present we received was a large cast iron skillet. My sister-in-law said, “I wanted it big enough so that you could cook a whole chicken.” It’s so heavy, I have to use both hands to lift it. After 30+ years of marriage, it has obtained a smooth, shiny black patina and I love my cast iron skillet.   My grandmother used her cast iron pan to wilt lettuce. Chunks of leftover bacon, diced onion and garden-grown lettuce that she and I had picked that morning, stirred in re-heated bacon grease. I’ve never tasted anything like it since. My parents were extremely picky about their cast iron. No soapy dishwater, ever. Corn bread sticks cooked in the iron mold were my father’s favorite, crispy on the outside, moist and steaming on the inside. I liked mine piled high with butter. Nothing cooks cornbread better than a cast iron skillet. Cast iron heats slowly, cooks food evenly and is a superior conductor of heat. It has been used for centuries. Englishman Joseph Lodge first settled in the town of South...

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The Cowboy Stomp

Posted by on Dec 28, 2018

Stomp, Hoe-Down, Shin-Dig, Baile, Hoe-dig The “grapevine telegraph” spread the word through short grass country of upcoming social events. Neighbors rode for miles to share the gossip and pass the word along to other neighbors. If any cowboy who happened by your place mentioned the upcoming Hoe-Down, you could consider yourself invited. The hosting ranch prepared the bar-b-qued beef and the party-goers traveled for long distances bringing cakes and pies, dressed in their Sunday best sporting new haircuts and...

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Longfellow’s Christmas Bells

Posted by on Dec 21, 2018

The sorrow behind the joyful words of Longfellow’s song. As a writer, I’m always fascinated to learn the history behind the stories and how the events at the time might influence the  words that flow onto a blank page. Good or bad, joyous or devastating–strong emotions can evolve into powerful prose. A good example is a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, one of my all time favorites. Longfellow’s Sorrow In the case of Christmas Bells, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote...

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